I've recently asked a few questions which deliberately push the boundaries of what is acceptable on the site because I was hoping to get a few good examples of what might be useful off-topic questions. My questions were:

The interesting thing is that these questions will have a list of answers, which may be useful to the community without having a definitive answer.

Whilst I don't necessarily want to see a proliferation of these types of question on the site I do think there is some value in them. The reason is that the SE engine is optimized for Q&A which has the side effect of being well suited to questions that can have a list of answers. Now a list in itself isn't overly useful, but the SE engine allows for sorted and ranked lists which is infinitely more useful. The problem with lists is that over-zealous community members will close them with the logic that they're too subjective with no possible answer.

I think these types of questions are also distinct from discussion type questions as they're not open to debate, nor do they encourage back and forth dialogue between users.

So after all that, my question is should questions that have a list of answers be allowed when they still provide value to the community despite not having a distinct answer?

1 Answer 1


I see these questions differently. Let's take the, "most valuable cookbook," answer. I could imagine responses like:

  1. (+100) Julia Childs "It Needs More Butter"
  2. (+50) Rachael Ray "30-minute meals"
  3. (+35) The Frugal Gourmet Cookbook
  4. (+33) The back of the Rice Krispie Treats Box ...

This turns into a way of ranking cookbooks through the community. I might buy a cookbook because I've seen it on this list and trust the F+C community. That's a reasonable result, and I don't think we should discourage it.

Plus, as you said, we aren't in danger of a deep proliferation of these things.

  • 1
    I agree. The fact the community has in essence "recommended" a book I've never heard of like "1080 Recipes, by Simone Ortega", is enough for me to be interested in buying it and therefore validates the existence of such questions IMO.
    – lomaxx
    Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 12:56
  • Exactly what the site is good for: 1) Accepting multiple answers, ranked by community votes, or 2) Accepting a single "definite" answer is possible through two means: Highest community votes or OP's selected answer.
    – JYelton
    Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 21:03

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